Forty-two years ago, Scott Nunamaker was working at the docks in his hometown of Blaine, buying fish and crab. He received a call from then-Nooksack Valley Schools superintendent Leo Groves while at work and within hours Nunamaker was hired on as a teacher at NV Schools and starting work in the district the following day, the first day of school for the year.
“I never even applied at Nooksack,” Nunamkaer recalls. “I applied other places, but school started the next day.” Nunamker served as a physical education teacher at the elementary level for the first year, rotating between Everson and Sumas, before moving to the middle school the following year, which was located on the same campus as the high school.
Now, 42 years later and Nunamaker is retiring from the place he has served for more than four decades. As a science teacher for the bulk of his career, Nunamaker says it has been a true pleasure to explore learning with so many students over so many topics.
By a rough count, he figures he’s had over 4,000 students across 42 years. “I have often thought of that,” he says, “that is a lot of people.” Sometimes he’ll walk the hallways at Nooksack Valley High School and take in the photos of the graduating class pictures, remembering specific students along the way.
Nunamaker landed at Nooksack Valley and never left. He coached baseball for 16 years, he coached boys and girls golf and coached basketball on different occasions. Over his time he was part of three state championship teams—including girls golf and boys basketball—and had a 2005 girls golf team win the academic state championship, a not as highly recognized achievement that he says was a fun driving force on the team as everyone worked to keep a 4.0 grade point average. “It was a great bunch of smart girls and they used (the challenge) to propel themselves to do well,” he says.
And while all the winning—whether baseball or golf or basketball—was fun, the memories aren’t about the accomplishments, “but the memories and relationships that you had with people.”
Staying at Nooksack Valley was never a tough decision. “It is not who you once were, it is where you’re going now and I am in purple,” he says about wanting to remain a Pioneer for 42 years. “I stayed because once you’re here, the people were great.”
Nunamaker says he’s enjoyed the adults he’s worked with at the school and the shared collaboration to “do things the right way.” And he knows he’ll miss the kids. “Sure, there are always some characters you may not enjoy that much, but there are way more quality kids year in and year out,” he says. “There are a lot of good kids.”
He says he enjoys watching high school students use their smarts and determination to move into careers, especially impressed with the quality female students who have gone through Nooksack Valley, landing high-level jobs along the way.
Looking back at his time at Nooksack Valley, he says the impact across the county has also been fun. Nunamaker and a colleague in Blaine started a summer San Francisco trip for students decades ago, a science-focused trip that allowed students to visit the likes of Intel and college campuses. He made 25 trips to San Francisco himself, taking students from multiple schools—many in the early days it being their first experience flying—until passing off the reigns.
“All the Whatcom County kids walking around in Stanford sweatshirts,” he says, “that was us. I can’t imagine how many kids have gone on that. That trip is still kind of alive even after all these years and the sheer number of kids who actually went is something I’m proud of being a part of after all those years.”
With two school-age kids of his own, Nunamaker knows he’ll be spending plenty of time running them around, taking them to school. But he also hopes to hit the road and “see some things I haven’t seen.”